US 7874487 B2
This provides a plurality of novel features that can be applied variously to a reader. In one embodiment, the light pipe is constructed from durable polycarbonate for increased shock resistance and can define a rectangular cross section. The chamfered end of the light pipe is textured or frosted to further diffuse refracted light passing through the end so as to present a more even effect. The conical/tapered diffuser within the light pipe is illuminated by a reflector with a white textured surface that reflects a plurality of rearward-directed illumination sources back into the diffuser. The reflector can define a predetermined cross section that directs further light into the forwardmost, remote regions of the diffuser to generate a better spread of light and alleviate spotting effects. The textured surface on the chamfered light pipe end can be employed to better project indicator light. The illumination sources are arranged in a ring at the inner end of the pipe, and can be multi-colored sources that respond to the controller to project and appropriate color and/or blink in an appropriate pattern to indicate various conditions, such as read success or failure. The controller is adapted to provide indications between image acquisitions. The controller can operate individual portions of the ring so that only corresponding portions of the light pipe perimeter are illuminated in a particular color (quadrants, for example) at a given time. Different quadrants may be simultaneously illuminated in different colors in one example.
1. An illumination assembly for a mark reader comprising:
a light pipe arranged in a surrounding relationship to an interior area through which at least a portion of a mark is detectable having a distal end that is chamfered and includes a diffusive surface texture on the outer surface, wherein light transmitted though the light pipe is internally reflected along the pipe and is internally reflected at the chamfered end through a wall of the light pipe facing the interior area as dark field illumination and is refracted onto the surface at the chamfered end as bright field illumination.
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13. An illumination assembly for a mark reader comprising:
a light pipe in optical communication with a ring of illumination sources, the light pipe arranged in a surrounding relationship to an interior area through which at least a portion of a mark is detectable and projecting light in a forward direction from a forward end of the light pipe; and
a tapered diffuser located within an interior perimeter of the light pipe, the tapered diffuser being in optical communication with a reflector that receives light from a plurality of rearward-directed illumination sources that project in a direction opposite the forward direction.
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18. An illumination assembly for a mark reader comprising:
a light pipe that projects light from a ring of illumination sources onto a surface, the light pipe arranged in a surrounding relationship to a passage through which an imager views the surface having the mark; and
wherein the illumination sources are interconnected with a controller that is adapted to project illumination from the illumination sources so as to indicate a predetermined status of the reader in times between instances of illumination of the surface in which an image of the surface is acquired.
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23. An illumination assembly for a mark reader disposed along an optical viewing axis comprising:
a light pipe defined by at least four adjacent sides including a first opposing pair of sides and a second opposing pair of sides, the light pipe including a chamfered edge at a distal end that directs light from a ring light source at the proximal end onto a surface as dark field; and
wherein a first spacing between the first opposing pair of the sides has a length different than length of a second spacing between the second opposing pair of the sides.
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30. An illumination assembly for a mark reader comprising:
a light pipe arranged in a surrounding relationship to an interior area through which at least a portion of a mark is detectable, the light pipe having a chamfered distal end that includes a chamfered surface, the chamfered surface having a diffusive surface texture, and
wherein light transmitted through the light pipe is internally reflected along the pipe and is internally reflected at the chamfered distal end through an interior wall of the light pipe facing the interior area as dark field illumination and is refracted by the chamfered distal end as bright field illumination.
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1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to machine vision systems and symbology readers that employ machine vision and more particularly to illuminators for the same.
2. Background Information
Machine vision systems use image acquisition devices that include camera sensors to deliver information on a viewed subject. The system then interprets this information according to a variety of algorithms to perform a programmed decision-making and/or identification function. For an image to be most-effectively acquired by a sensor in the visible, and near-visible light range, the subject should be properly illuminated.
In the example of symbology reading (also commonly termed “barcode” scanning) using an image sensor, proper illumination is highly desirable. Symbology reading entails the aiming of an image acquisition sensor (CMOS camera, CCD, etc.) at a location on an object that contains a symbol (a “barcode”), and acquiring an image of that symbol. The symbol contains a set of predetermined patterns that represent an ordered group of characters or shapes from which an attached data processor (for example, a microcomputer) can derive useful information about the object (e.g. its serial number, type, model, price, etc.). Symbols/barcodes are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Two of the most commonly employed symbol types used in marking and identifying objects are the so-called one-dimensional barcode, consisting of a line of vertical stripes of varying width and spacing, and the so-called two-dimensional barcode consisting of a two-dimensional array of dots or rectangles.
By way of background
The scanning application 113 can be adapted to respond to inputs from the scanning appliance 102. For example, when the operator toggles a trigger 122 on the hand held scanning appliance 102, an internal camera image sensor (that is part of the image formation system 151) acquires an image of a region of interest 131 on an object 105. The exemplary region of interest includes a two-dimensional symbol 195 that can be used to identify the object 105. Identification and other processing functions are carried out by the scanning application 113, based upon image data transmitted from the hand held scanning appliance 102 to the processor 109. A visual indicator 141 can be illuminated by signals from the processor 109 to indicate a successful read and decode of the symbol 195.
In reading symbology or other subjects of interest, the type of illumination employed is of concern. Where symbology and/or other viewed subjects are printed on a flat surface with contrasting ink or paint, a diffuse, high-angle “bright field” illumination may best highlight these features for the sensor. By high-angle it is meant, generally, light that strikes the subject nearly perpendicularly (normal) or at an angle that is typically no more than about 45 degrees from perpendicular (normal) to the surface of the item being scanned. Such illumination is subject to substantial reflection back toward the sensor. By way of example, barcodes and other subjects requiring mainly bright field illumination may be present on a printed label adhered to an item or container, or on a printed field in a relatively smooth area of item or container.
Conversely, where a symbology or other subject is formed on a more-irregular surface, or is created by etching or peening a pattern directly on the surface, the use of highly reflective bright field illumination may be inappropriate. A peened/etched surface has two-dimensional properties that tend to scatter bright field illumination, thereby obscuring the acquired image. Where a viewed subject has such decidedly two-dimensional surface texture, it may be best illuminated with dark field illumination. This is an illumination with a characteristic low angle (approximately 45 degrees or less, for example) with respect to the surface of the subject (i.e. an angle of more than approximately 45 degrees with respect to normal). Using such low-angle, dark field illumination, two-dimensional surface texture is contrasted more effectively (with indents appearing as bright spots and the surroundings as shadow) for better image acquisition.
In other instances of applied symbology a diffuse direct illumination may be preferred. Such illumination is typically produced using a direct-projected illumination source (e.g. light emitting diodes (LEDs)) that passes through a diffuser to generate the desired illumination effect.
To take full advantage of the versatility of a camera image sensor, it is desirable to provide bright field, dark field and diffuse illumination. However, dark field illumination must be presented close to a subject to attain the low incidence angle thereto. Conversely, bright field illumination is better produced at a relative distance to ensure full area illumination.
Commonly assigned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/014,478, entitled HAND HELD SYMBOLOGY READER ILLUMINATION DIFFUSER and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/019,763, entitled LOW PROFILE ILLUMINATION FOR DIRECT PART MARK READERS, both by Laurens W. Nunnink, the teachings of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference, provide techniques for improving the transmission of bright field (high angle) and dark field (low angle) illumination. These techniques include the provision of particular geometric arrangements of direct, bright field LEDs and conical and/or flat diffusers that are placed between bright field illuminators and the subject to better spread the bright field light. The above-incorporated HAND HELD SYMBOLOGY READER ILLUMINATION DIFFUSER further teaches the use of particular colors for improving the illumination applicable to certain types of surfaces. Often, the choice of bright field, dark field, direct or diffuse light is not intuitive to user for many types of surfaces and/or the particular angles at which the reader is directed toward them. In other words, a surface may appear to be best read using dark field illumination, but in practice, bright field is preferred for picking out needed details, especially at a certain viewing angle. Likewise, with handheld readers, the viewing angle is never quite the same from surface to surface (part-to-part) and some viewing angles be better served by bright field while other may be better served by dark field. The above-referenced patent applications contemplate the application of a plurality of illumination types to achieve the best image for a particular surface and viewing angle.
It has been recognized that handheld readers pose a number of unique concerns. At least some of these concerns are shared in relation to fixed readers. For example, the material from which most light pipes are constructed is acrylic (commonly termed “plexiglass”). Acrylic exhibits a high refractive index (approximately 1.58), which is well suited for internal transmission of light down a light pipe. However, acrylic tends to shatter easily in response to impact. This may limit the life and endurance of a handheld reader (particularly a cordless/wireless model) that is expected to occasionally drop and strike a hard floor, perhaps against the light pipe. While the light pipe could be armored with cushioning and external housings, this undesirably increases production costs, weight, obtrusiveness and may optically obscure the pipe.
Moreover, the light pipes described in the above referenced patents may include a chamfered end to project dark field illumination via internal reflection. Refraction through the polished chamfered end also generates direct bright field illumination. The optical clarity of the light pipe and end tends to create a spotlight effect, in which each individual illumination source (red LEDs, for example) is clearly visible on certain surfaces (see
Also, where a conical diffuser is employed to provide an overall source of direct diffuse illumination, prior art devices are limited in their ability to spread light from a few individual illumination sources (LEDs, for example) throughout the diffuser surface, and then onto the subject as diffuse light. Thus, the diffuse light tends to exhibit a characteristic, localized light spot and dark spot effect. Adding further illumination sources to the diffuse section may be limited both by space and the relative cost of illumination sources, particularly where relatively costly blue-colored LEDs are employed.
Further, prior art readers often include visual indicators located at their back, top or another surface that denote the current status of the reader (for example, power on/off, good read, error, bad read, ready, not-ready, etc.). Various information can be presented to the user via different color lights (red/green, for example) and/or via blinking patterns. However, in a production environment, small, rear-mounted or top-mounted indicators may be overlooked or present a distraction while the user tries to focus on the surface being read. A technique for more-conveniently integrating indicators with the user's main point of interest is highly desirable.
This invention overcomes the disadvantages of the prior art by providing a plurality of novel features that can be applied variously to a reader to improve the illumination performance in both dark field/direct bright field and direct diffuse types of illumination. Further features allow for increased light pipe durability without increasing weight or size and better readability of status indicators by placing such indicators in proximity to the subject and significantly enlarging to overall size of the indicator.
In one embodiment, the light pipe is constructed from durable polycarbonate for increased shock resistance. The chamfered end of the light pipe is textured or frosted to further diffuse refracted light passing through the end so as to present a more even effect. The conical/tapered diffuser within the light pipe is illuminated by a reflector with a white textured surface that reflects a plurality of rearward-directed (opposite the illumination and viewing direction) illumination sources back into the diffuser. The reflector can define a predetermined cross section that directs further light into the forwardmost, remote regions of the diffuser to generate a better overall spread of light and alleviate light and dark spotting effects. The textured surface on the chamfered light pipe end can be employed to better project indicator light. The textured surface can alternatively (or in addition) be applied to the exposed portion of the inner wall adjacent to the distal (forward) end of the pipe.
The illumination sources are arranged in a ring at the inner end of the light pipe, and can be multi-colored sources that respond to the controller to project and appropriate color and/or blink in an appropriate pattern to indicate various conditions, such as read success or failure. Typically the controller is adapted to provide these specialized indications between actual image acquisition, so that the image acquisition is properly illuminated. The controller can operate individual portions of the ring so that only corresponding portions of the light pipe perimeter are illuminated in a particular color (quadrants, for example) at a given time. Different quadrants may be simultaneously illuminated in different colors in one example.
In an illustrative embodiment, the light pipe defines a polygonal (for example rectangular) cross section (with the polygon being generally defined as at least four linear or non-linear sides, joined at corners (that may be rounded) to form a (typically) non-equilateral shape. The chamfered edge on each side is at a fixed angle and thus the differing length of the North-South versus East-West sides (in the case of a rectangle), generates two different distances for convergence of dark field rays, which increases depth of field. Stated differently, the polygon (rectangle) includes at least two pairs of opposing sides and the first pair of opposing sides has a length different than the second pair of opposing sides to generate two differing-distance convergence points for dark field rays.
The invention description below refers to the accompanying drawings, of which:
With brief reference to the illuminator, the illumination board 214 supports a plurality of LEDs 310 that are red in this embodiment (a variety of colors can be used). The LEDs 310 are directed forwardly, toward the opening of the reader. These LEDs are positioned behind a passive light pipe 244 that internally transmits light from the ring of LEDs 310 to a front end 230. In this embodiment, the front end 230 includes a chamfered surface 232. Various examples of a light pipe for use with a reader or similar application are shown and described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/693,626, entitled LIGHT PIPE ILLUMINATION SYSTEM AND METHOD, by William H. Equitz, et al., the teachings of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference.
Briefly explained, light passes through the extended body of the pipe 244 from the inner end, adjacent to the LEDs 310. The body is formed from a transmissive/transparent substance. As discussed above, one concern for the light pipe is durability and impact resistance. In an embodiment of this invention, the light pipe is constructed from transparent polycarbonate (available under the trade name Makrolon from BASF of Germany, or alternatively Lexan® available from the General Electric Company). This substance can be injection-molded using a liquid resin that is formed into a desired shape as discussed further below. The transmitted light is reflected internally by the angled/chamfered surface 232 of the light pipe 244 to exit at a low angle toward the center optical axis 270. While acrylic displays a superior refractive index (approximately 1.58), it has been recognized that the refractive index of polycarbonate (approximately 1.49) is sufficient to achieve the degree of light transmission and internal reflection employed for dark field illumination in accordance with embodiments of this invention. The inner and/or outer wall surfaces of the light pipe 244 can be coated with opaque paint or another compound to prevent leakage of light into or out of the pipe. In this example, a shield 250 is also provided along the inner surface of the light pipe. One function of the shield 250 is to prevent transmission of diffuse light (described below) in to the light pipe. Another function is to redirect light transmitted from the reflector (see below) back into the diffuser.
In this example, the ring of LEDs 310 acts to produce a red direct bright field effect along with the dark field effect through refraction of some light from the LEDs through the chamfered surface 232. In general, at short reading distances from a surface (<25 mm between the light pipe distal (forward) end 230 and surface), the bright field illumination from the light pipe 230 tends not to interfere with the dark field illumination. The bright field illumination is available, however, for larger reading distances (>25 mm between the end 230 and the surface). This is useful for easy-to-read codes, such as black-and-white printed labels. In alternate embodiments, a separate bright field illuminator can be provided, and as described below. In fact, many available imagers include integral red bright field illuminators. In an alternate embodiment, a separate bright field illuminator can be provided in a discrete color, such as green.
Note that a pair of aiming LEDs 220 (typically emitting green light) are provided. However, these are optional. Such aiming LEDs may be integral with the commercially available image employed herein.
A tether cord 260 provides electrical power to the reader 200, as well as a communication transmission path for the decoded character string of the encoded information, though it is contemplated that the reader 200 can be configured with battery power and wireless communication for complete portable flexibility.
With reference also to
Reference is now also made to the exploded view of
Space may be limited in the region between the shield 250 and the inner surface of the diffuser 280. Moreover, it is contemplated in various embodiments to provide a blue color for the diffuse illumination, employing high-output, blue-colored LEDs, which are more costly than the red or green versions. Thus, use of a smaller number of such LEDs is highly desirable. The fewer individual illumination sources employed, the greater the need to spread the light around the diffuser so as to avoid a light and dark spotting effect on the surface of interest. To accomplish the desired spread of diffuse illumination with a minimal number of individual illumination sources, the light projected by the diffuser is provided by a set of (four) rearward-projecting LEDs 282 mounted on the illumination board 214 on a side opposite the ring of light pipe LEDs 310. These LEDs 282 project rearward into a conical, spherical, parabolic (or other shape) reflector 290 that spreads the reflected light throughout the inner surface of the diffuser 280 so that it exits as a substantially uniform spread of direct, diffuse light onto the surface of interest. As will be described further below, the reflector's shape can be optimized to improve the spread of light along the conical diffuser. In this embodiment, the reflector 290 is constructed from polymer with a white textured surface to further diffuse the light reflected therefrom. This indirect projection of light with a diffusing reflective surface significantly aids in reducing the number of diffuse illumination LEDs 282 employed to project the diffuse illumination, thereby reducing production costs and power consumption. As noted above, in this embodiment, the diffuse illumination LEDs 282 are high-output blue LEDs. However, the particular colors used for each type of illumination are highly variable. However, it is highly desirable that the diffuse illumination be spaced apart on the spectrum sufficiently from the dark field illumination to allow adequate resolution of the two wavelengths of light.
A translucent “conical” filter 292 is provided. The filter 292 is adapted to filter out light with larger wavelengths, thereby allowing smaller wavelength blue light to pass out of the diffuser and onto the surface, but preventing the retransmission of any reflected red light from the surface, which would otherwise tend to become retransmitted as diffuse red light along with the red dark field illumination. The wavelength spread between red light and blue light is sufficient to accomplish this filtering without compromising the performance of either type (dark field/direct bright field versus direct diffuse) of illumination. The filter 292 conforms to the shape of the diffuser's outer (exposed) surface, and can be snapped or adhered onto the diffuser surface using a variety of fastening techniques that should be clear to those of ordinary skill. Note that instead of a separate filter (292), a similar effect can be obtained through the use of a colored diffuser (see
Thus, to summarize, at least two discrete sets of illumination transmitters (LEDs, for example) are provided according to the illustrative embodiment, the direct diffuse transmitters 282 and the dark field transmitters 310. In accordance with the illustrative embodiment, each discrete set of transmitters 282 and 310 generates a corresponding discrete illumination color. For example, direct diffuse illumination can be generated by blue LEDs and dark field (and direct bright field) can be generated by red LEDs. The use of two discrete colors allows each type of illumination to be restricted to its particular application, without mixing, using filtering within the illumination assembly. In this embodiment, each type of illumination creates an image that is received by the imager 212. The imager in this embodiment includes a conventional monochrome sensor that produces a grayscale image from the colored light. Note in alternate embodiments a color sensor can be employed. One such implementation is shown and described in commonly assigned U.S. patent application entitled SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR EMPLOYING COLOR ILLUMINATION AND COLOR FILTRATION IN A SYMBOLOGY READER by Laurens W. Nunnink, and filed on even date herewith, the teachings of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference.
Reference is now made to
In this embodiment direct non-diffuse bright field illumination (see rays 620 in
While not shown in this illustration for simplicity, it can be assumed that a filter (292 above) may be applied over the diffuser to prevent migration of reflected dark field (and bright field) light into the diffuser 280.
As discussed in the above Background of the Invention, illuminator light pipes according to various prior implementations of mark readers include a polished distal end. Referring briefly to
The frosted or textured surface 830 provided along the chamfered end facilitates a novel and desirable display of reader status according to an embodiment of this invention. Before describing the status display in detail, reference is made to
During the stepping process, the processor 1010 directs the illumination ring (block 1020) to illuminate. It then directs the diffuse illuminator (block 1018) to illuminate. As described in various of the above-incorporated-by-reference patent applications, the ring 1020 can include individual banks of LEDs (or other illumination sources) that, in this example, are formed into quadrants—namely top/north 1022, bottom/south 1024, right/east 1026 and left/west 1028 (as viewed from outside, toward the reader front). These quadrants can be individually addressed by the processor. This allows the output of each quadrant to be varied so as to generate the desired effect on the object. This is particularly useful, where the reader may be disposed at a non-perpendicular angle to the object surface or the surface is non-flat. Various automatic adjustment processes can be included to efficiently cycle through various lighting arrangements among the quadrants to determine the arrangement/profile that achieves the best image. In this embodiment, the individual illumination sources (LEDs 1030) are commercially available multi-color LEDs (red and green in this embodiment, denoted schematically by the split line down the middle of each LED 1030), capable of projecting either of two colors in response to the processor 1010. This can be useful, form an imaging standpoint, where a different color is to be provided for dark field and direct bright field. More significantly, the illumination ring's multicolor capability allows the light pipe (particularly the frosted end 820) to project a highly visible, subject-adjacent indicator light in a plurality of colors.
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Reference is now made to
While a stepped reflector 1420 is shown and described according to an embodiment of this invention, it is expressly contemplated that reflectors having a variety of surface cross-sectional profiles can be employed in alternate embodiments. Such reflectors should be adapted, using optical-focusing techniques, to spread light along the length of a tapered or conical diffuser of a shape generally contemplated herein so as to avoid undesirable spotting on localized regions of the surface of interest.
It is contemplated that a light pipe with a textured or frosted chamfered end according to the various embodiments of this invention can be produced by a variety of techniques including grit blasting or peening of a finished surface, a desirable construction technique entails molding of the light pipe from poured resin. The chamfered end is located near the bottom of the mold and the rearward end (adjacent to the illumination ring) is located at the top of the mold, at which location the finished pipe is ejected from the mold. The bottom of the mold is provided with a frosted or textured pattern so as to form this surface effect on the chamfered end of the finished pipe. Referring to
Referring further to
According to the embodiments described above, the general cross sectional perimeter shape of the light pipe is rectangular (taken on a plane through axis 270). For the purposes of this description, the term “rectangular” shall include minor deviations of the sides of the rectangle from a straight-line geometry. In other words, a rectangular shape herein may include, for example, curvilinear arcs as shown and described. In general, the term rectangular shall be defined generally as a set of linear of non-linear sides that intersect at each of four corners (that may be significantly rounded corners) that cause the approximate direction of two adjacent sides to vary by approximately ninety degrees. A highly generalized representation of a rectangular light pipe 1610 is shown in
Besides providing a larger depth of field with two projection distances, the above-described rectangular light pipe shape presents several advantages over round light pipes and those of other regular, equilateral shapes. The rectangular shape more closely conforms to the conventional 4:3 horizontal-to-vertical ratio exhibited by commercially available sensors. The rectangular cross section yields a larger dark field range than provided by round pipes. It also allows for a lower-profile reader, in terms of overall height. Moreover, the use of discrete “sides” on the pipe makes it easier to control separate quadrants, as described above.
Note that, while the embodiments described herein generally contemplate somewhat polygonal shapes with adjacent sides connected by corners, it is expressly contemplated that continuously curving joints between “sides” can be provided. As such the terms “sides” and pair of opposing sides should be taken to include ellipses in which the opposing sides spanned by the major axis are greater in length that the opposing sides spanned by the minor axis. In this manner each set of sides generates an average convergence distance for dark field rays that is different, thereby producing the desired enhanced depth of field. To this end,
It should be clear from the above-described embodiments, that a reader having superior illumination and mark-reading capabilities is described herein. This reader alleviates many of the disadvantages encountered with prior art readers, and provided improved object-illumination, status-indication and overall durability.
The foregoing has been a detailed description of illustrative embodiments of the invention. Various modifications and additions can be made without departing from the spirit and scope thereof. For example, any of the various features described herein can be combined with some or all of the other features described herein according to alternate embodiments. Additionally, while a plurality of multicolor LEDs are provided, individual monochromatic LEDs each in a plurality of colors can be arranged adjacent to each other on the illumination ring in alternate embodiments. Likewise, while a ring divided into quadrants is shown, any acceptable division of the overall ring can be provided according to alternate embodiments. Certain parts of the overall ring can be made to work together with other parts according to embodiments hereof. For example, top and right may always work together or top and bottom may always work together. Likewise, additional ring colors, such as yellow can be employed to provide further types of indicators. Multi-colored illumination sources or a plurality of adjacent individual illumination sources (or combinations of individual and multi-colored sources) can be used to generate the desired seat of ring colors. Moreover, while a rectangular light pipe is shown and described, a greater range of depth of field may be obtained by providing a non-equilateral shape having more than four sides joined by corners (for example, an oblique hexagon). This invention contemplates polygonal light pipe cross sections having four or more sides (linear or curvilinear) joined at corners (that may be rounded). Finally, it is expressly contemplated that any of the processes or steps described herein can be implemented as hardware, software, including program instructions executing on a computer, or a combination of hardware and software. Accordingly, this description is meant to be taken only by way of example, and not to otherwise limit the scope of this invention.